Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Talk to Teachers? Not Barbara Kerr, CTA President!

Boy, was I shocked this evening when I read my local newspaper! It seems that the President of the California Teachers Association, Ms. Barbara Kerr, was here visiting my hometown. But that was yesterday. The rank and file members of CTA who teach here were never told our state union President was going to be here. I would have liked to ask her a question or two. But aside from that, I believe it would have been nice for her to visit some of us teachers who have been teaching since 30 June, 2003, without a contract. IS it too much to expect, from the President of the State Teachers Association, to say a few words of encouragement to her members who have been maintaining our professionalism in our classrooms, busting our buns to try to move our students forward towards those black hole of doom NCLB requirements/expectations, worrying about health insurance coverage for our families, taking a big hit in our take home pay due to a lack of progress in the contract negotiations and still have to pay a Union dues increase each year ? I guess so. She did have time to talk to those members of local school boards who were invited to hear her speak and visit with her. She did have time to talk to the presidents of the local CTA affiliates who were invited to the local union fortress (aka, Uniserve Office) to meet with her. BUT to take even ten minutes to talk to any of the rank and file members ? No, she did not have time, or maybe, just maybe, she did not WANT to talk to us ?
It is sad and frustrating, that this union does not seem to care much for its rank and file members. Will I vote for Ms. Kern if she runs for another term as President of CTA ? NO. But then again, I did not vote for her at all. IN FACT, I was not even allowed to participate in the selection of candidates, the "election" of union officers or anything else hinting at this CTA/NEA being a democratic organization.
Years ago, during my first full-time teaching job in the wilderness of Northeastern Arizona, our local, the northeastern-most in the whole state, was visited by the President of Arizona Education Association, Dennis Van Roekel. I greatly appreciated and admired Dennis for making the trip up to see us and listen to our comments and concerns. It was a seven hour, (one way) drive from Phoenix to get to Red Mesa, AZ. It was great that Dennis took that much time to come visit us. And, he knew what classroom teachers were facing every day; he was not too long out of his classroom at Paradise Valley and into the job of President of AEA. IF you are familiar with the politics of the national teachers unions, you may know that Dennis Van Roekel is about to become President of NEA. I did not get to vote for Dennis either. BUT, he did take the time and make the effort to talk to his rank and file members. Something Barbara Kerr of CTA should learn.
Oh, and what questions was I planning to ask her ? I would of asked her to address the issue of a lack of democracy in CTA; why can't we, the rank and file members, elect our union officers or even have a say in approving any union dues increases. I would have asked her why CTA forced our local association to change our by-laws and constitution to make us a less democratic organization and to make it much more difficult for the rank and file members to hold local union leaders accountable for their actions or lack of actions. (This topic will be discussed in an upcoming blog, so stay tuned to THE VIEW FROM HERE if you are interested)
Thanks for reading my blog. You comments are welcome!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Teacher's are DUMB

Teachers, as a group, are DUMB. Not "dumb" as in stupid, but the "DUMB" as in Silent. As a group, I don't think teachers talk much. This is too bad. As I have surfed various educational blog rolls, I often read something that I find to be of interest. I will often leave a comment, if the blog has a place for posting comments that doesn't require too much work. But I wonder, how many teachers read some other teachers' or 'educators' blog and remain silent ?

In observing years of faculty meetings, time in the teacher's lounge and workroom at the school where I teach, there seem to be several main types of teachers, in terms of talking; those that talk too much and always have an opinion about something, those that never say a word, those that will whisper to someone close by and those who will say nothing at the faculty meeting, but bitch loudly about something when they are away from administrative or the 'teacher in gossips' ears.
Because I leave comments regarding someone's blog, does this make me that type that "talks too much"? I hope not. I believe we teachers are in a tough job and NEED TO TALK TO EACH OTHER ! We need to network to share ideas, horror stories, success stories, concerns, etc.

Teachers need to speak up for ourselves. In the local teachers association in which I am forced to belong (affiliate of CTA/NEA), very few teachers speak up about anything to their appointed leaders. For example, we are now one year and five teaching months without a contract with the school district. It was suggested that the leaders of our association "model" the behavior they are requesting from the rank and file members, that is, writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper. The local union leaders refuse to do so. The President told me, "the board knows EXACTLY how I feel". Yet, they ask the rank and file to stick our necks out to do something they themselves will not do. (I say 'stick their necks out', because those of us who have spoken out in the past have been targeted by the district administration for retaliation....Involuntary transfers to less desirable teaching assignments/schools, letters of reprimand in personal files, increased administrative visits to 'monitor' instruction in their classrooms, denial of requests to attend professional conferences, denial of requests for personal necessity leave, etc.) Under the guidance of our superintendent, Dr. KOP, several teachers have learned that they do not have first amendment rights to free speech. Would this be a problem if 200+ teachers in my school district were SPEAKING OUT for their rights? No. But they don't. And we are forced to accept poorer teaching conditions everytime we "lose" the Battle of the Contract.

Anyhow, if you are a teacher with something to say, SAY IT ! Open up you mouth and communicate whatever is on your mind ! Talk to your fellow teachers, to those who's blogs you visit, to the parents of your students, even to those who 'rule' you (administrators, etc.) ! QUIT BEING DUMB !

Please feel free to leave a comment about this blog. I welcome hearing from you !

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

This is a response to some things I've read recently on some educational blogs about NCLB.
SOMEDAY, maybe, the edu-bureaucrats sitting in state capital offices will get their act together. Here in California, the State is now testing 8th grade students in Social Studies, in addition to the "usual" math and English language skills stuff. Unfortunately, the test is NOT aligned to the California State Social Studies Standards. For example, I was told by an 8th grade Social Studies Teacher that the test "she just gave her kids" contained questions about the Great Depression, 1960's Space program and the US in Vietnam. Great. California 8th Graders are supposed to study US History. BUT, according to the State Standards, 8th Graders study US History from the Development of the US Constitution to about WW I. YET, they are being tested on material that they will not have an opportunity to learn in a regular public school classroom until they reach grade 11 !
Secondly, but not quite as important, is a lack of cross-over between subject area standards (in California). For example, I teach Grade 7 World History. There is NOTHING in the Grade 7 Language Arts Programs that matches what content I am expected to teach. This makes it harder to support each other (in terms of content/subject matter). Yes, I have my students writing and doing DOL (Daily Oral Language) activities, but it is tailored to my subject/current topic. For example, today's DOL was: "We us the roman alphabot" Students copy it as its written, then we go over it for errors. Students 'edit' their statement, then copy it error-free. Sometimes, at the end of a week, they must write a quality, error-free paragraph using their DOL's for the week. Anyhow, much work needs to be done to get everyone on the same page for the benefit of our students.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Educational Blogging


Well, I recently have been checking out a few educational blogs; Joann Jacobs, Jenny D., EdWonk and a few others. Have left a couple of comments here and there. Over at Jenny D's blog, someone named Plum, who I found via his blog page is a PROFESSOR OF EDUCATION at a university "in the Texas Hill Country," let me a comment on my comments about teacher choice. Plum, Thanks for your comments. I can only speak from my own educational experiences in my 21 years of public school teaching and what I am experiencing as my two young children go through their public school experiences.
Have you looked at Open Court? Much of it seems to be what I experienced back in the late 60's, a supplimental reading program called SSR which we used when we students finished some work, went over to pick a card, read the story and answered a couple of questions about the story. However, my teachers did NOT have a "reading coach" monitoring their "progress towards the program goals" or administrators berating them for not being on page 666 on November 11, because that's WHERE THEY ARE REQUIRED TO BE IN THE PROGRAM at that time. This is the current experience of my sons teachers, both of whom probably have at least 60 years elem. teaching experience and a LONG track record of sucess in teaching their students. They no longer have the opportunity to use that experience because they have been told, "this is what the district has decided you WILL DO." I also understand, that there is never sufficient time to begin to train or allow teachers to familiarize themselves on the new programs the district is telling them they WILL TEACH. They have a math program that is also a "canned" program. OH, and it doesn't matter if all their students don't learn it the first speed trip through a chapter, unit or whatever, they MUST GO ON, because otherwise, they will not finish the program. TO ME, THIS IS SAD. My wife and I care who our sons teachers are, and have so far, requested which teacher we'd like them to have each year. And, so far, those requests have been happily granted by the school principal. ( NO, we am not personal buddies with the principal ). It is also sad, that my sons, who are reading at much higher that their grade levels, are sitting in a classroom having to endure this program. IF their teachers were allowed to say, use the Open Court material for the reading level my sons are at, that might be ok. But to subject a bright second grader who is reading at the fifth/low sixth grade level to grade 2 level Open Court material? We want them to stay focused, to stay interested, NOT to get so bored they start to tune out or lose interest in school. ( thank goodness for AR (Accelerated Reader.....that helps keep them going in regards to reading! ).
As for me, teaching is not quite as fun as it used to be, in part because of the pressure about testing and "getting through the framework/standards". Here in California, the framework/standards for my current subject, Grade 7 World History, basically covers the history of the world, except Antarctica, from the Fall of Rome to just Post Age of Exploration. There is no way such a large scope of history can be covered very well or throughly in such a short amount of time. The State of California also has approved only one textbook for Grade 7 World History; a textbook that is the only one submitted by the publishers that covered SOME of the framework/standards for this class. Are there other texts that might be better, for use with MY students? Yes. Especially since 90% of my students cannot read and comprehend THIS text. They have problems with the English language (most are classified EEL [English Language Learners]). They do not have the background they need for this subject, (which is supposed to be taught in prior grades but History and Science are pretty much not taught according to framework/standards in grade 5 - 6 because of the TESTING emphasis being only on reading and math). So, can I use another textbook? No. Those are not on the "Approved" list of Primary Text materials and hence, schools cannot purchase them with state money.
So, what do I do? I do what I can with my own supplimental materials, experience and love for my subject. I try to make it as varied, interesting and fun as I can. Do my students like my class? Some do, some do not. Is my class taught like I used to teach it? No. It has always been a work in progress. I use the materials and experieces I have gathered over the years to try each year to best teach my subject matter to my students. Do pacing guides that my school administration have given us, help us? No. I know what my standards are. I also know that my many RSP, ELL and a few GATE kids will never learn at the same "pace" Time to stop for now....

IF you have gotten this far, thanks for reading my ramble.